September 27, 2022
As the 13-member City Council is grappling with redrawing the boundaries of the nine council districts, a process that plays out every ten years, Hyde Park Councillor Ricardo Arroyo has proposed a map that would put parts of Dorchester and the South End in a single Council district while uniting the Vietnamese community under one councillor.
The panel faces a tight timeline, as the boundaries must be set by Nov. 7, a year ahead of the next municipal election cycle, when councillors will be on the ballot. By this time during the last redistricting go-around, in 2012, councillors had sent two maps to Mayor Thomas Menino’s desk, and he had vetoed both before approving one sent to him at the end of October.
Each district must have, roughly, an equal number of people, a mandate that forces councillors to re-balance the population since the city’s Seaport neighborhood has seen a residential boom over the last decade.
Arroyo’s proposed map puts each district at roughly 75,000 people. Any councillor can propose an alternative to his plan.
The redistricting process comes at a fraught time inside City Hall, with tensions still high among the councillors. In August, City Council President Ed Flynn removed Arroyo as chair of the redistricting committee after a Boston Globe story outlined sexual assault allegations against him when he was teenager and while Arroyo was running ran for Suffolk County district attorney, drawing outcries from some of their colleagues.
Arroyo was never charged and has denied the accusations.
A public hearing on the redistricting process is set for Thursday (Sept. 29) at 3 p.m. inside City Hall’s Iannella Chamber. The session will be live-streamed on the city’s website, with Allston-Brighton Councillor Liz Breadon stepping in as redistricting chair.
Arroyo said he spoke with Wu when he was still chair of the redistricting committee and she expressed hope that neighborhoods would be strengthened under a map that would also unify the Vietnamese community. Asked about Arroyo's comments and his map, a Wu spokesperson said in an emailed statement, "The City looks forward to continued collaboration with the Council and community engagement in the redistricting process."
Arroyo said he worked on his map both while he was chair and after his removal by Flynn. His proposal, which was cosponsored by Roxbury Councillor Tania Fernandes Anderson, was first reported by GBH News. “I think this is a very strong map,” he said.
District 3, anchored in Dorchester, needs to pick up population, according to Arroyo, while District 2, which includes South Boston and the Seaport, must shed numbers. He noted that District 3, currently represented by Dorchester’s Frank Baker, already has two precincts in the South End, a neighborhood currently split between several councillors.
Redrawing boundaries so that the district absorbs more of the South End and touches Boylston Street, by the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, is a “natural extension,” according to Arroyo.
District 2, which would lose the South End, would then pick up the area around Moakley Park from District 3 under Arroyo’s map, which, in uniting the Vietnamese community within District 3, combines them with the South End’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The Vietnamese community, clustered in Dorchester’s Fields Corner neighborhood, is now split between District 3 and District 4, which is represented by Councillor Brian Worrell.
Arroyo contended the city’s Cape Verdean population, currently split between Districts 3 and 4, is also more united in District 7 on his map, placing the area around the Strand Theater inside that grouping.
Arroyo said he would continue to represent roughly the same amount of Mattapan, with the dividing line for his district (No. 5) and District 4 falling mostly along Blue Hill Avenue.
His map shows District 4 picking up parts of the Cedar Grove area from District 3, a move that local groups are likely to protest.
Steve Bickerton, the chair of Cedar Grove Civic Association, said Arroyo’s map came as a “big surprise” in its effort to split Cedar Grove, which also doubles as St. Brendan’s Parish, between District 3 and District 4.
“I would say that Cedar Grove/Adams Village is very much a core of District 3,” he told the Reporter. “It just seems to fly in the face of reason or logic or those principles of redistricting. It’s a matter of keeping the district united, keeping these communities and neighborhoods united that have common interests.”
Bickerton said he expects local groups to oppose the map, similar to their efforts to block a state-level redistricting effort last year.
Senators ended up dropping a plan to break up Dorchester’s Ward 16 between the Senate district represented by Nick Collins of South Boston and by Walter Timilty of Milton. The ward’s precincts stayed in Collins’s district. Labor unions representing MBTA workers and Boston firefighters had voiced opposition to the breakup, and state Rep. Dan Hunt had threatened to sue if the change went through.
Bickerton said his group would support a lawsuit opposing the Arroyo map. “Our neighborhood is a community of interest and we want that to be preserved,” he said.
District 3’s Councillor Baker was not immediately available for comment, while District 4’s Worrell, who is the vice chair of the redistricting committee, said he is “committed to a robust and thorough community process that prioritizes community input,” as well as transparency.
“We will continue to meet with community stakeholders, and most importantly listen to ensure the final map is fair and equitable,” he said in a statement.
This post was updated with a statement from the mayor's press office.